A posing question, put by the wise man, viz. Solomon, to the wisest men concerning making a judgment of the temporal conditions : wherein you have the ignorance of man (in knowing, what is good, or evil, for man in this life) discovered, together, with the mistakes that flow from it : and the great question resolved, viz. whether the knowledg of, what is good for a man in this life, be so hid from man, that no man can attain it
Baxter, Benjamin, Preacher of the Gospel., Baxter, Richard, 1615-1691.

〈1+ pages missing〉Page  [unnumbered] such a crowd of Books: But God told not me, what Changes He would make: And who knoweth what is good for man, when Providence concealeth much that is neces∣sary to the Determination. Little thought I, That God was so suddenly removing so many faithful Guides, and bringing thousands into such a case, in which, Books must be their most learned, able, powerful Teachers! O what a mercy is it, that even the Poor, may keep such Preachers in their houses, at so cheap a rate! That at Home, they may thus have an excellent Sermon when they please! That they may (yet) without Pe∣nalties, hear these silent Preachers, that are Orthodox, Methodical, Impartial, not bending to the Lusts, and Carnal Interests of Men: That at home, you may hear a Preacher that will not flatter you, nor raile at those, that are not for the Interest of a Faction; nor by a beastly debauched Life, unsay his Doctrine: That by reading more or less, you may avoid the offence, of the length or shortness of the Sermon: That you may choose the Subject, most pertinent to your case, and the Discourse that for the manner is most suited to your Edification! That when you cannot come to a Powerful Preacher, you may, at any time, read a heart∣warming Page  [unnumbered] book: That when you want un∣derstanding and expression, prudently to instruct your Families, and exhort your near Relations, or your Neighbours, you may read to them, or lend them, a Book that is best suited to their State. I think, Much of the work of God in England, for mens Conversion, Confirmation, and Consolation, is now to be carried on by Books.

And though I know some get them, but as Hangings or Pictures, to Adorn their Rooms, (ut Petrach.) Alii voluptiti, alii jactantiae libros quaerunt; sunt qui hac parte supellectilis exornant thalamos, quae animis ornandis inventa est, neque aliter his utuntur quam Corinthii vasis, & tabulis pictis, ac statuis, &c.) yet, when they are extant, who knoweth whose hands they may fall in∣to: And how many by such Books, as un∣expectedly have fallen into their hands, have bin brought to true Repentance and Salvation.

And it is a great-Mercy, that we have such a multitude of Books, that all agree in the necessary unquestionable Truths of our Religion; when it is a thing so danger∣ous to read Books against Books, Errors a∣gainst Truth; and [Libri quosdam ad sci∣entiam, quosdam ad insaniam perduxêre] Page  [unnumbered] some are made Wise, and some made Mad, by reading Books: And when diversity, and contrariety, so distract men, as abun∣dance of Cross-wayes do a Traveller. (ut Petr.) Fallit saepe viarum multiplicitas viato∣rem; et qui uno calle certus ibat, haeret in bivio; multoque major trivii est error, aut quadrivii: sic saepe qui librum unum effica∣citer elegisset, inutiliter multos aperuit e∣volvitque.)

The Papists remedy against the hurt of ill Books, is to deny us the use of good ones: Their remedy against the mischeifs of errors, is to keep men without knowledg of the Truth; and to cure squinting to put out our eyes: To escape the danger of misun∣derstanding the Scriptures, to keep them from understanding them, and to lock them up in an unknown Tongue, and to fly from them, because, they are abused by Here∣ticks: As if Christ should not have said again, [It is Written] because, the De∣vil had said, [It is Written]. But of the two Evils, the Vanity is more tolerable, of them that glory in their excellent Libra∣ries; or of Sabinus, in Seneca, that boast∣ed of his learned Servants; or the Great Men, that glory in their learned Chaplains, while they are ignorant themselves; than Page  [unnumbered] the Villany of Licinius, that called learn∣ing, The Pest and Poison of the Common-Wealth: Or the Italian Noble Man that Pe∣trach mentioneth,*that would give a very great summe of mony, to keep all men of Learning, from ever coming into his Country; Or the impiety of them, that would banish the know∣ledg of the Scriptures, from the laity in the Church of God.

2. And from the matter and manner of this Treatise, I have more special Reasons to take the publication of it for a Mercy. The Subject is very suitable and seasonable in these times, when Providence sporteth it self in the affairs of men, and puzzeleth so many, and is so variously interpreted by the best, and misinterpreted by the most. This Doctrine of mans uncertainty of what is for his good, in the matters of temporal concernment, or of the disengaged Provi∣dence of God, is not any where else so ful∣ly and methodically handled that I know of. And it is of very great use, to the correct∣ing of many, and great miscarriages, and Page  [unnumbered] the right ordering of our affections and imployments in the world. How unreason∣able is it, That we should be so eager and peremptory in our desires of that, which we know not, Whether it will do us good or hurt. That we should be so passionate∣ly troubled, for those passages of God's Providence, which, for ought we know, may be the means of our felicity. O how oft do we foolishly trouble our selves, be∣cause God is saving us from greater trouble, and we do not understand His meaning! Strange! that the knowledg of our nothing∣ness, and the experience of the fruits of our miscarriages, will not yet perswade us, to give God leave to Govern the World, without our medling, or seeking to take his Work into our hands, and censuring of that, which we never understood! That we have not yet enough, of the desire of being as gods; having smarted for it, as we have done! O the folly of those Expo∣sitors of the Prophecies of Scripture, who first overvalue a prosperous state, and con∣clude beyond their knowledg, that it is best for us; and then reduce the Promises to their sense; and grow so confident in their expectations, of outward deliverances and prosperous times, as to lay their hopes and Page  [unnumbered] comforts on it, and the very credit of Re∣ligion it self! And ô the madness of those men, that laying this as their ground work, that fleshly Prosperity is best for them, are unreconcilable to the wayes of Faith and Holiness, and Mortification, because they square not with this Erroneous Founda∣tion.

These Generalls we are certain of; First, That ordinarily Adversity, is more profita∣ble to the Soul, then worldly Prosperity. Secondly, That all things shall work together for good, to them that love God. And therefore we have reason to be most suspi∣cious of Prosperity; but, if we are true Christians, to interpret all well that is of God.

Did we but know what need we have of mortifying Providences, as the ordinary means of mortifying Grace, we should right∣lier judg of them, then we do. Tanto quis∣que ferramentum medici patientius tolerat, quanto magis putridum conspicit esse quod secat.] Saith Greg. He that best knowes the rottenness of the flesh, will best endure the Surgions knife. And happy are we, if that be cured by the pain of the flesh, which was corrupted by the pleasure of the flesh: [Si quae carnis delectatione peccamus, carnis dolore purgamus:]

Page  [unnumbered] Marvel not, if, when thou turnest unto Christ, thou seemest to be assaulted with successive Waves, and to be cast into a Fur∣nace, or brought into a Thorny Wilderness, and compassed with Sorrows, which thou never wast acquainted with before: As Augustine to his friend, [Noli admirari frater, si, postquam Christianus effectus es, mille te undique tribulationes vexant: Quo∣niam Christus nostrae Religionis caput est; nosque ejus membra sumus; debemus ergo non solum eum, sed ejus vitam cumulatissime sequi.] Christs way, must be our way; we must be conformed to our Head: We must Suffer with him, if we will be Glorified with him: The Cross, is the passage to the Crown. The Armies of Saints, have gone this way in all Generations. [Similes alio∣rum respice casus—Mitiùs ista feres.] Ov. Should we expect that Grace should have no Conflict, no Conquest before the Triumph; but be Crown'd, before we have shewed what it can do? Nay, we know not the power of it in our selves, till it be tried. [Nemo scit, quid potueris; ne∣que tu quidem ipse: Opus enim est ad suî notitiam experimento: Quid quisque pos∣sit, non nisi tentando didicit, inquit Se∣neca.]

Page  [unnumbered] Be not therefore too unmannerly, and foolishly importunate with God for any out∣ward thing, till thou not only thinkest that at the present it would do thee good, but also canst see as far as to the end, and say, That it will be in the issue good, and will not cross any greater Good. And marvel not, if God grant not such mistaking Pray∣ers. Non audit medicus ad voluntatem, sed ad sanitatem, saith August.

What sickly tempers should we be of, yea, what certain death would follow, if our Father and Physitian, should dyet us as we desire, and give us what we would have our selves? It seems a hard saying of Au∣gustine, of Rich men; Difficile, imo impos∣sibile, est, ut praesentibus et futuris quis fru∣atur Bonis: ut hic ventrem, et ibi mentem impleat; ut à deliciis ad delicias transeat; ut in utroque seculo primus sit; ut in terra et in coelo appareat gloriosus: It is hard, yea impossible, to enjoy both present and future Goods: to satisfy the belly here, and the mind hereafter; to passe from pleasures unto pleasures: to be a chief man in both worlds; to be glorious both in Earth and in Heaven.] But it meaneth no more than Christ meant, in Luk. 16. 25. & 18. 25.

O how great a Victory do they get, that Page  [unnumbered] overcome the temptations of Prosperity. Magnae virtutis est cum foelicitare luctari; et magnae faelicitatis est à foelicitate non vin∣ci: Aug. How few are so happy, who have that which the world counteth happiness, as to escape its sting, and the everlasting misery, which living after the flesh will pro∣cure, Rom. 8. 1, 13.

Heu caecae mentes, tumefactaque corda secundis!

This maketh the Great ones of the world, to be the Object of grief and compassion to the Wise, and cloudeth their Honour, and maketh them usually esteemed the mi∣serablest men alive, because they are usual∣ly the worst, through the Surfeits which they take from worldly fulness, and the aliena∣tion of their minds from God and Heaven, through the prevalence of fleshly pleasures: For he is the worst man, that is most Earth∣ly and least Heavenly; that hath most of the World, and least of God upon his heart: Especially, when the Leprosy of the most brutish Sensuality, and stinking Lusts, and drunken Pride, and savage Cruelty, are the Symptoms of this Pernicious Di∣sease.

Page  [unnumbered]
Luxuriant animi rebus plerumque secundis▪

Saith Lactantius, Ex Prosperitate oritur luxuria; ex luxuriâ verò, vitia omnia: sic impietas adversus Deum nascitur.] Luxurie springeth from Prosperity, and all Vices from Luxurie: And thus impiety against God is generated.

And it frequently maketh the Prosperous so Drunk, that they need no other enemy: their Disease destroyeth them, they reel unto their Ruine. Saith Seneca, Res est inquieta Foelicitas, ipsa se exagitat, movet cerebrum: non uno genere alios in aliud irritat. Et alibi: Multarum urbium in ipso flore luxuriosa imperia ceciderunt, et quic∣quid virtute paratum erat, intemperantiâ corruit.

Seeing then that worldly prosperity is usually so pernicious, and we can never say before hand, That it is for our good: How unmeet is it, that we should inordinately desire it, or think we are undone when ad∣versity is our lot? Why seek we that ful∣ness or greatness, which hath, as Augustine speaks, Asperitatem veram, jucunditatem falsam, certum dolorem, incertam volup∣tatem, durum laborem, timidam quietem; Page  [unnumbered] rem plenam miseriae, spem beatitudinis in∣anem: That is, a true asperity, a false de∣light; a certain pain, an uncertain plea∣sure; a hard labour, a fearful rest; a bu∣siness full of misery; and a hope ihat is empty of true felicity.] And, as a leaf, it shakes with every wind: Internal Gripes, External Rumors; and a thousand Acci∣dents, turn their seeming Paradise into a Hell: Ade ò perexigua sunt, quae fortunatis∣simis summam beatitudinis detrahunt, saith Seneca. For, as he saith in another place, Felicissimi cujusque delicatissimus est sensus, et, nisi ad nutum cuncta suppetant, omnis adversitatis insolens, minimis quibusque prosternitur. The most prosperous, have a delicate sense, and, if all things be not at their beck, being unused to all Adversity, they are cast down with every triffle.

3. And I am the more inclined to this Recommendation, for the Reverend Au∣thor's sake: God threatneth by Sickness, to call him hence; and therefore, that he may Preach to many, when he is removed from a few, and silenced in the dust; is that honour to his Name, and that benefit to Men, which I gladly would Promote. He is an Orthodox, Sober, Peaceable, Di∣vine; that never interessed himself, with Page  [unnumbered] any thing like a Faction: An excellent and most Methodical Preacher, whose labour is better in the Pulpit, then in the Press: I have oft heard him, and scarce ever heard a Sermon from him, which I thought not worthy to be published: No, not when he began to Preach, (about 26. years ago). Many such Humble, Godly, able faithful Labourers, I had the happinesse to be a Neighbour to, in the County where he liv∣eth. In the matter and style of this Book, you may trulier know, than from the Re∣ports of Malice, what Sedition, what Facti∣on, what Schism or Heresy they Preached: for it was such as this, so far as I was ac∣quainted. O happy England! That hath more Able, Powerful, Laborious Preachers to spare and lay aside, than any other Na∣tion that I hear of in the world, propor∣tionably doth enjoy. Now, he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear. Yet a little while is the light with you: walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth, John 13. 35.

March 14. 1661.

Your Companion, in the hope and patience of Believers, Rich. Baxter.